A Memorable Day
In Memory of AVI, 1941-2012.

Ezra Azra

© Copyright 2022 by Ezra Azra


Photo by Jarod Barton on Pexels
Photo by Jarod Barton on Pexels.

The single-engine piston aircraft Cessna 172 Skyhawk, best-selling model of all time, crashed in accelerating speed into the international river border, opposite the beginning of Ouellette Avenue, downtown Windsor.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, annual National Independence Day. The calamitous event was significantly more spectacular for being witnessed by hundreds of spectators on both banks of the river, gathered to enjoy the annual Red Bull aircraft acrobatics.

The roar of the crowds shattered some windows of the many high-rise residential and commercial buildings along Windsor’s Riverside Drive, East and West, paralleling the river.

Coastguard vessels of both countries were on the scene within minutes, supposing the accident was a Red Bull catastrophe. That the coastguard vessels could be on the scene so soon was because of the total ban on civilian and commercial boats and air traffic in that section of the river during the annual Red Bull airshow.

Within minutes, phone calls from the Red Bull organizers dismissed the suppositions, and by way of confirmation, flew by six Red Bull aircraft in formation, executing daredevil acrobatics repeatedly, much to the international spectators’ deafening admiration.

So entertaining were the Red Bull maneuvers that the fatal disaster to the Cessna occupants mere minutes previously, was quite forgotten by most spectators, if not all, within seconds.

Law-enforcement agents on both coastguard vessels were baffled by the complete and instantaneous submarine disappearance of the Skyhawk. Heavy contraband content was their first suspicion.

The coastguard vessels were patrol class. They were not equipped to engage in salvage operations. Higher class vessels were on the way, estimated to arrive in three hours.

The river being an international border, it would not be straightforward determining national jurisdictions. The river, respecting neither nation’s authority, was, probably, making the situation more complicated by randomly tumbling things about deep underwater. Police helicopters of both countries buzzed about the river, engaged in searching for the Cessna and its survivors, and in discouraging News helicopters from impeding the search.

A miracle or a mere optical illusion, depending on the angle of sight from the ground, was the presence of the flock of geese. Did the Cessna pass harmlessly among them on its way to extinction, or did its course safely miss them? Whichever, those birds kept flying without missing a honk. There was no indication that any person had noticed the near-collision of geese and aircraft.

The lawyers of the Firm on the tenth floor of Campus Towers, on Riverside Drive East, were also baffled by the Skyhawk's quick submergence.

Only two lawyers had seen the Cessna plunge and disappear. They were having varying degrees of success and failure convincing their four gawking skeptical professional colleagues. The only hard evidence the two had were the cracks in the extra-wide office windows overlooking the river.

Neither dared claim the window damage as primary evidence, because they knew the bellowings of the spectator hordes were likely culprits, and not the luckless 172.

The two professionals had on their side the almighty unspoken fact that a catastrophe of this high celebrity always meant the probability of lucrative clients. This awareness significantly dampened the fervor and skepticism in the opposing four. It would definitely have helped the two had the owner of the Firm witnessed the crash; Mister Arnold Sherwell, owner of the Law Firm, had not.

Indeed, a few minutes before and after the incident, Mister Sherwell was in the Firm’s inner office, giving the rest of the day off to some personnel. He did this every year on this public national holiday because he knew that by mid-afternoon, the crowds descending on the City to celebrate the Red Bull performances, made congested vehicular traffic on the City’s major roads, a wide-awake nightmare.

Yvonne McBride was one of the lucky interns given the rest of the day off by Arnold Sherwell. She took the elevator to the garage in the basement of the Towers where her four-door sedan was parked. She inserted the key into the car door.

A hand from behind shoved her violently against the vehicle. A male voice hissed, “Do not make a sound. I have a knife.” She was terrified. The malevolent voice continued hissing, “Open the door. Give me the keys. Get in on your knees on the seat. Unlock the passenger door. Stay kneeling."

In a hoarse trembling voice she forced herself to reply. “All right.” She shakily handed him the keys. She struggled to kneel on the seat. By the time she managed to reach over to unlock the passenger door, her assailant was already there on the outside. He yanked the door open and thrust himself inside. He growled at her as he shoved the keys at her with one hand, and waved a long stained hunting knife at her in his other hand. “Sit! Lock your door. Drive!”

She fumbled inserting the key in the ignition. She mechanically fastened her seat-belt, and mechanically said to him, “Seat belt.” He, too, mechanically, complied, grimly. He was awkward with the belt, using one hand. He put the knife on the dashboard to free his other hand.

A hand came at him from behind, inside the car. The barrel of a handgun was jammed into his neck. A hard voice whispered, “One sound, and you're dead.” Yvonne sucked her lips over her teeth and clamped down hard to stifle herself from screaming. A woman’s voice addressed the man. “Are we good?” He coughed; cleared his throat. “Yes! Yes! Good.”

Keep your hands at your sides. You, at the wheel.” Barely audible in terror, “Yes.” “Give me the keys.” Yvonne held the keys up to be taken. The female with the gun, to the man, “Reach over. Take the knife by the tip of the blade, and hand it to me, handle-first.” He slowly obeyed. When she had the knife in her hand, “Unbuckle and exit. Slowly.” He slowly and menacingly complied. When he was halfway out, she swiftly exited and grabbed him.

The lawyer made a mighty determined effort to look away. She heard a suppressed grunt from the man. The woman re-entered the sedan. She sat behind Yvonne. “What's your name?” “Yvonne.” She handed Yvonne the keys. “Drive, Yvonne.”

At that moment a woman, of Yvonne’s stature and, likely, her age, hurried by, across in front of the car. She waved briefly at Yvonne. Hesitantly, Yvonne waved back. The person continued quickly walking. A harsh whisper from behind inside the sedan, “Who is that?” Hastily, insecurely, “One of Mister Sherwell’s lawyer interns. Like me.” “Drive, and hope she does not return to chat.” “She won't. We are rivals in the office. She hates me.” “And you? You hate her?” “I am trying to not. It is so hard. She is not a nice person.”

Yvonne drove slowly and extra carefully. Her hands on the wheel were in pain from being excessively stiff from tight gripping in fear. She turned left out of the Towers basement garage, and headed West on Riverside Drive. The vehicular traffic was so congested they would not have been able to get onto the Drive if the Towers did not have its own traffic lights for its basement parking garage.

Why all this traffic?” “It's normal for today in downtown. Once a year Red Bull puts on an air show to celebrate today. National Independence Day. Our Nation's birthday.”

The coastguard on the river, too? And all the helicopters?” “I suppose. I have never been this far on this day.”

This is your City?” “For now. My home is in Tennville. Four hundred miles north.

What did you do to the man in the Towers parking garage?” “I returned his knife, and sent him off on the path he chose.” Softly, “Thank you for rescuing me from him.” “You are welcome."

At the traffic lights, Yvonne turned left onto Ouellette Avenue. A stern “Why?” from the backseat passenger. Yvonne replied quickly, “In this traffic, I must get onto Wyandotte Street West. The apartment building I live in is on Wyandotte Street West. In this traffic I will not be able to access Wyandotte Street West from Riverside Drive West.”

At the traffic lights at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Wyandotte Street, Yvonne turned right onto Wyandotte West. The vehicular traffic on Wyandotte was as daunting as on Riverside Drive.

If it's not your City, you won't know where the tunnel across the border to Main Town is, then?” “Everybody knows where the tunnel is. Right now, we are moving away from it.”

Between Wellington and Cameron Avenues, south of Wyandotte Street West?”

Oh, that tunnel. I've heard of it but I've never seen its entrance. I think that one is a railway tunnel. I was talking about the other tunnel for automobiles. That entrance is downtown.”

Yes, I am talking about the other one. A railway tunnel. The Interstate Central Railway Tunnel. Between Wellington and Cameron Avenues, south of Wyandotte Street West.” “As far as I know, there's nothing there for passengers.” “It's somewhere ahead of us?” “Yes.” “Before or after where you live?” “A few blocks before. And on this road.” “Good. Drop me off anywhere between Wellington and Cameron.” “That won't be a problem in this traffic crawl.”

Police helicopters crisscrossing far ahead concerned Yvonne. Could they be searching for her armed passenger?

There was a lot of constant car-hooting and people-shouting the vehicles crept along by alternative lengthy stoppages and inchings forward. “Careful. Pedestrian to your left.” Yvonne instinctively braked.

A pedestrian, festoonly dressed, and waving a small National flag on a stick, was crossing the road, recklessly squeezing herself between the crawling along helplessly tailgating vehicles.

Yvonne’s backseat passenger extra-squished herself into her seat behind the driver in order to be less visible to pedestrians celebrating mindlessly. Such carelessly cheerful and loud persons were everywhere, between the cars and on the sidewalks, enjoying the National holiday.

One such individual appeared suddenly alongside the car at Yvonne’s side. He was dressed as a clown. He showed Yvonne a basket containing hand-sized boxes of candy. “Caledon fudge chocolate, friend? Two boxes for a dollar! Five squares in a box. Made right here in Windsor. Exported all over the world.”
"I love Caledons. I grew up on them when I lived overseas. Two boxes, please. This is an incredible price. A dollar-fifty each, in the shops." "I know. This is your lucky National Independence Day, friend."

They completed the transaction. "How about your friend in the backseat?" "Not feeling well. That is why I am buying two boxes. A happy National Independence Day to you, friend." "Thanks. You, too."

He presented Yvonne with a Caledon single, factory-wrapped in cellophane. “New flavour and texture, being introduced today. One free to all who buy more than one box of the regular. I recommend it be eaten before the regulars in order to allow it the opportunity to establish its distinct identity. On the inside of the wrapper is a discount coupon and an email address to contact, with your comment. Don't delay. There's an expiry date, if only because it is chocolate that will melt.” “Thank you. I will remember.

By the way, do you know whatever is going on with those police helicopters out there?” “I happen to know a lot. My buddies and I were there when the cops arrived.” “There where?” “By that railway tunnel. We put on free entertainment for the homeless campers there, from time to time. We are used to being harassed by police.” “So, this is just usual general police harassment?” “A little more than usual, I would say. But, then, that might be just because today is special. International Independence Day. You have a good one.”

With a clownish flourish and bow, the clown squeezed himself along to another car.

Yvonne gently tossed a box of the chocolates to the back. Her passenger deftly caught it. “Thanks. I’m starving. A clown, huh? Always the perfect disguise for undercover police work.” “Less paranoia, please, if you don't want to choke on and spoil those delicious Caledons.”

Police helicopters roared overhead, to somewhere ahead. Far away, one helicopter descended out of sight; another two continued to hover around in search pattern. “The railway tunnel?” “I guess so.” “Not a good idea to go there, huh?” “Not a good idea.” “Perhaps I can hang out with you at your place for a while?”

Insecurely, “I am a lawyer. Is your gun legal?” “Gun? What gun? Oh, you mean the gun I stashed in that clown’s costume.” Yvonne bows her head over the steering wheel, desperately attempting to cope with despair. “Be happy, Yvonne. I remembered to remove the bullets and wipe the prints. That clown is sure to have a laugh when he finds out he has been out-gunned, so to speak.”

You are welcome to hang out in my place.” “Just until it gets dark. Then I'm out of your life forever. I promise.” “It's okay. I live alone.

May I ask a personal question?” “Go ahead."
That railway tunnel is an unforgiving place. Why is it so important to you?”

Two years ago in Honduras, a few of us teens were bought from our families by a drug cartel. A normal business transaction in my Honduras. Extreme poverty is everywhere. We travelled by bus for days. I did not know where we were going. Eventually, we reached the tunnel entrance. One night we were secretly herded like cattle into a railway-goods container, and locked in. A tornado struck. When it was over, there was a tangle of damaged railway containers on this side of the tunnel. Bodies all over. Dead, unconscious, struggling. I was one of the lucky ones.

There was a camp of dozens of homeless persons nearby. They took us in. Fed us. Promised to protect us. We few Hondurans made a pact to return occasionally to help others. With the help of those homeless ones, we eventually spread out into the country.” “I was hoping to return today for help to return to Honduras.”

"The police are searching at the tunnel. It is not safe for you there." "According to the newspapers on both sides of the river, there still is a settlement of homeless persons there. I'm counting on meeting former friendly associates."

Okay. Here's Randolph Avenue coming up. Our righthand turn-off.” “Your home nearby?” “That three-storey high-rise coming up on the right, 2136. I live on the third floor. Parking at the rear.”

They turned right onto Randolph, and, within a few feet, right again onto the service alley at the rear of 2136 Wyandotte Street West.

Geese everywhere. On the ground, on the rooves of buildings and automobiles, and in the trees. “What’s with the ducks?” “Geese. Tenants of 2136 keep feeding them. Be mindful where you step. Cover your head."

They approached the building. Yvonne let out a soft sigh of frustration, "Oh, no!" She stopped the car. "What is it?" "That obnoxious man. Again."

"Where?" "That red half-truck. The landlord assigns a parking space to each apartment. See the numbers on the wall?” “Yes.” “Number 32 is mine. That red truck criminal did some renovation work for the landlord sometime back. Ever since then, he parks in any empty space.

When he is asked to leave, he refuses, saying he is doing repair work in the building. Right now he is in my space.” "Number 38 is empty. Go, park there. Then, go open the backdoor, and stand there where he can see you." She moved to exit the car. “What are you going to do?”

Charm him out of your space.” She exited the car and waited until Yvonne had parked her car in space 38, and was standing in the opened back-doorway of the building. Then, she walked up to the driver in the red half-truck. He was seated at the wheel, busy writing in a notebook. "Hello, sir." He looked up sternly at her.

She smiled and spoke gently. "Sir, you see that lovely young thing standing in the doorway?" He scowled and looked. Yvonne waved slightly at him.

Through his teeth, “I don't know her.” “That's not the problem, sweet sir. You're parked in her space. See?” She pointed to the number 32 painted in large numbers on the brick wall in front of his truck.

Still smiling artificially, and sweetly, and speaking especially softly while fixing on his eyes her coldest hardest most threatening glare. "Sir, I work for an Agency downtown. That lovely lady in the doorway has hired me through the Agency for two hours. If you don't move your vehicle, I will be obliged, by Agency protocol rules, mark you, sir, by Agency protocol rules to make one phone call. You are tying my hands, sweet, sir.”

They will have burly bouncers here within minutes, kind sir. There is no telling what they will do to you. Sweet, sir. Please. One business person to another, huh?” She slowly waved her partially hidden cellphone at him.

He locked looks with her, and leaned nearer. “Are you a whore?” Relaxing enough visibly for him to notice, “That’s a fair way of describing it, sir. High class. High priced. We do all genders, all pronouns, sir. Individuals and groupies.” He fixed a stern look into her eyes. For seconds it seemed to be a grim stand-off. He broke into a reluctantly naughty half-smile. “You have a business card?”

Thought you would never ask.” Deftly and out of nowhere she produced a card in her hand and seductively handed it to him between the tips of her two fingers, opening her mouth slightly for him to see her tongue slowly sliding over her non-lipsticked wet lips.

Thanks.” He reversed out of the space, and drove off, his mischievous smile morphing into an uncouthly toothy grin displaying neglected teeth.
Yvonne hurried to space number 38. She parked her car in space 32. They suppressed giggles as they walked up the stairs to 32 on the third floor.

Inside the apartment, both of them burst into uncontrolled giggling. "Remember, I have to leave when it gets dark.” “Okay. Bathroom there. You first. Garbage bin there by the kitchen sink.” She points. “Tomorrow is garbage day, so feel free to discard as much as you wish. I will go change, and fix us snacks.”

About forty-five minutes later, they were sitting at the kitchen table having drinks and snacks Yvonne made and served. They chatted casually as they enjoyed their snacks. “By my unfortunate life, I have an instinctive feel for neighborhoods. This is a ghetto. You are a lawyer. Should you not be living in a safer neighborhood?”

I moved here three years ago. Within weeks I wanted to flee. My boss, Mister Sherwell, pointed out the opportunities I should avail myself of in the crimes in and around this building. I have successfully represented five clients, so far. And I have four years to go in my internship with Mister Sherwell’s Firm. At this rate, I could end my internship with being offered a partnership in the Firm.” Her visitor raised a cup to her.
"I notice you don’t have television or cable. In your bedroom?” “Only a cheap small radio. So far, there have been three failed attempts to break into this apartment. When they eventually succeed, I am determined they do not find anything of value. Not even in the fridge."

In obvious respect, “My name is Enid.” Softly, and in obvious surprise, “Pleased to meet you, Enid.” They raise their cups to each other. “Enid, would you care to shower and change your clothes. You stink. I have some new items I’ve never worn. Take your pick.” “We are completely helpless when naked in the shower, Yvonne.”

Enid, taped to the underside of this table is a loaded licensed handgun. Mister Sherwell insisted. You have nothing to be afraid of from me when you are naked in my shower. Now, please, go. Stuff your old stuff in a garbage bag. Tomorrow is garbage day.” “Thank you, Yvonne. Invitation, with clean clothes, accepted.”

"By the way, before I forget. When you leave in the dark, go by the front door; not the door by which we entered the building." "How do I get there? Front door?" "Turn left when you leave this apartment. I'll be there with you at the front door, just in case." "Okay."

This building is a ghetto. There are protocols for safety. If you have to pass a stranger in the hallway, greet them when you are a safe distance in front of them; don’t mind it if they do not return your greeting; when you are safely passed them, quicken your pace.”

Before I forget. Here, catch.” She took a small bag out of her pocket and tossed it to Yvonne. Yvonne caught it. “What is it?” “The bullets I denied that clown. I noticed your gun is the same caliber. I no longer have any use for them.” In hesitation, “Thanks. I think.”

If that offer of clean clothes still stands, I will take that shower now.” “It stands. And something more to think about while you are rejuvenating under the water. I could benefit from someone being here when I am at work. If your business at the tunnel can be postponed to a safer time, you can live here with me. Free of charge. For as long as you care to. If you have no identification documents, I can help. Our law Firm has an immigration section. We are working with asylum seekers all the time.”

Thank you, Yvonne. That is an incredibly good offer. I have to visit that tunnel now. After that, I will take you up on this offer.” “Be extra careful, Enid. If police find you are illegally here, that will seriously limit how the Firm can help you. We might not be able to get involved at all. And, worse, as a lawyer, I am already in trouble for not reporting what happened in that garage today. I stand to be disbarred.” “So, it is already too late for your career as a lawyer?”

Not if you kidnapped me. You did have a gun on me when you ordered me to drive out of the garage.” “I will swear to that fact, on a stack of Bibles.” “Thank you, but what if that assailant comes forward?” “He most definitely will not.” Enid fixed a hard cold look into Yvonne’s wide and worried eyes. Yvonne’s lawyer soul took a deep and silent and painful breath, invisibly.

But it will be really bad for you, Yvonne, if that passer-by colleague of yours, remembers. You know, the one that you said hates you in the office?” Yvonne desperately struggled to not despair. Softly, “Shower as long as you wish. Remember, water is free here."

According to the noon News on television and radio, “The cause of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk crash is yet unknown. There were two pilots. The one’s dead body was recovered downriver. She died on impact. Although the body was located downriver far away from all pieces of the wreckage, it is certain the body is connected to the wreckage because of a label on an item of clothing.” A magnified image of the label was shown on the television screen. It read, ‘Cessna 172 Skyhawk.’

The second pilot is missing, but not presumed dead because the seat belt was unfastened. The plane was a cargo carrier. It is not known how much cargo has been taken by the river. Only one wood crate was found in the cargo hold, strapped down. The crate contained contraband drugs wrapped in over 100 parcels, with a street value of at least a hundred million dollars. There was a second crate of equal size. So far, it has not been located. Since its straps are unfastened and are still in part of the wreck, it is a safe guess that crate was a planned drop.

Underwater, the plane broke into three parts.

In the hours it took for the salvage to begin, the river had carried the parts over a mile away from the impact site.

The names of the pilots are not known. It is not ruled out that the second pilot swam ashore into our Country, on this side of the river.

In other news. There was a murder in downtown Windsor this morning. The body of a young homeless man was found in the underground parking garage of Campus Towers on Riverside Drive East, almost directly in line with the Cessna crash site on the river. He had been stabbed to death behind his neck. He was well-known to Windsor police as a petty thief.

Night came. Yvonne was alone in apartment 32, sprawled out on the sofa, napping, unplanned, out of excessive mental and emotional exhaustion. She awoke suddenly, near midnight. All the lights were on. She was bemused for a second-or-two. Did she have a visitor earlier on? She pushed herself up on the sofa. She looked around the room.

Her gun! She remembered! Had she been foolish! Her mouth went dry. Her throat threatened seizure. She forced herself to swallow, over and over. She looked at the kitchen table. Had she, really? She hurried to the table, knelt on one knee, and looked. No! No! She had been foolish! The gun was not there. She was near to collapsing in self-disgust when that voice galvanized her.

That voice! Again! That whining drunken voice from the parking lot beneath her balcony. “Please 32, come down and open the back door for me. I have lost my key. You have helped me before. Thank you. Please, 32. Just one more time. I love you.”

Yvonne bounded up, and strode to the balcony glass door. She was angry. "Yes! I helped you," screamed Yvonne, silently to herself! Stupid me! She opened the sliding door, but did not step out onto the balcony. She called out to the drunk below as compassionately as she could fake it.

I would like to help you again. But my key broke in the lock of my apartment door. I am waiting for the landlord. I will send him to help you when he arrives. Okay?” Weakly, through harsh coughs and clearings of the throat, “All right. Thank you, 32. I love you.”

Do you know Esme? Hello?” “Hello, 32.” “Try calling out to Esme to help you. She lives in 38.” “38?” “Yes. At the other end on this floor.” “Is that not where someone died, 32?”

Yes. A long time ago. A very long time ago. Esme lives there now, happily. Call out to her. I spoke to her earlier tonight. Okay?” “Yes. Thank you, 32.” “You are most welcome. Happy Independence Day to you.”

Yvonne paused a few seconds, just in case there was going to be a reply. There was no reply. She hastily closed and locked the balcony door. She had moments of complete memory-loss. She stared about. She remembered! Her gun!

The microwave! She dashed to it on the kitchen counter. In her frantic eagerness, she pressed wrong buttons a few times. The door sprang open. She looked. There it was. Her gun!

She hurriedly retrieved it. Looked inside the oven, again, expectantly, and retrieved a small plastic bag with Enid’s extra bullets.

Tomorrow was garbage City pick-up at six in the morning. By this time, usually, she had already carried her regulation-required black garbage bag down to the landlord’s bins in the parking lot. She hurriedly, and routinely, filled a bag from the three small containers in different areas of the apartment. This first time she would have to take the garbage down tomorrow morning before six o’clock in order to avoid meeting that whiner drunkard downstairs, again.

She saw the two empty Caledon boxes. She remembered the cellophane-wrapped Caledon freebie that clown gave her, but she could not remember eating it. He said she should eat it right away; she did not. She recalled she had slipped it into her coat pocket. By now it would be melted into mush, staining her coat.

She interrupted her garbage detail to hastily go to the closet to check her coat. She found the Caledon where she recalled stashing it.

Surprisingly, it still felt cellophane firm, instead of mushy soft. She sat at the kitchen table and tore the cellophane open. No chocolate inside! Instead, only a small business-card size piece of paper with the words, “Suspect at large. Contact police.”

Yvonne felt dizzy. She let the card fall onto the kitchen table. She cradled her face in her hands, and broke down crying softly. She called out silently, barely, brokenly, to herself, “Enid! Enid! Yes! You were right! The clown was undercover!”

She heard sounds of a violent argument somewhere in the building. “And so,” she thought, wearily wiping away tears, “the 2136 nightly show begins. Any minute now, police sirens and loud stompings up and down the stair ways and along the corridors. Doors slamming.”

For the first time since she took up residence here at 2136, years ago, she did not find any of that, lawyer-exciting. Yvonne’s tired soul really could not care less, any more. When that doomsday meteor strikes tomorrow, please, might 2136 be ground zero? Thank you.

As she nauseously emptied the kitchen container, the last container, into the black plastic bag, a bit of torn wet crumpled paper accidentally flipped onto the kitchen floor. Yvonne reflexively hastily snatched up the bit. Something about it caught her attention. It was not paper. She inspected it closer.

It was a small fabric clothes-label. She straightened it out, and discerned the words, “Cessna 172 Skyhawk.” 

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